Greek Presidency: “We don’t want voters having the bitter taste of the crisis in their mouths come the European elections”

24 Jan 2014

This week the European Parliament heard from Mr Yannis Vroutis, Minister of Labour, Social Security & Welfare, who presented the priorities of the Greek Presidency over the next six months to the Employment and Social Affairs Committee. The Minister underlined that his government was aware of the importance of EU policies in the upcoming European elections (22-25 May 2014), calling the programme ‘ambitious, but realistic’.

Greek Presidency: “We don’t want voters having the bitter taste of the crisis in their mouths come the European elections”

Mr Vroutis focused on three main elements in his presentation: the promotion of jobs and tackling unemployment, strengthening the social dimension of Economic and Monetary Union and strengthening social dialogue at all levels. While the first priority is nothing new for a Presidency in recent years, the remainder of the programme is promising. To what extent however will the European elections limit the ambitions of Mr Vroutis and his government?

In the European Semester, improving the assessment and evaluation aspects of a social scoreboard is considered a big step forward towards a more social Europe. On social dialogue goals, the Greek Presidency is looking for more inclusion of the social partners in the processes of economic policy coordination.

Referring to the worrying trends in social dialogue in Greece, the Minister for Labour emphasised that this was not the fault of the troika, but of a lack of maturity in the Greek system. For Mr Vroutis, there is hope in Greece for social dialogue, with a sectoral agreement having been recently concluded under the Memorandum of Understanding which saw wages increase.

Another important aim of the Presidency is tackling undeclared work. Noting that a smooth functioning labour market requires that labour market laws be fully respected, the Minister conceded Greece has experienced high levels of undeclared work in recent years. According to Mr Vroutis, this is an economic and social crime which undermines competition and, worst of all, violates worker’s rights.